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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f739cf0000Arts & More airs Fridays at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.Theme music: "Like A Beginner Again" by Dan Barry of Seas of Jupiter

Ebony Hillbillies To Play Chenery Auditorium


Traditional African American string band The Ebony Hillbillies are one of the last of their genre. The Hillbillies have played alongside names like Pete Seeger, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Bette Midler, and The Temptations.

They’ve played shows around the world and now they’re coming to Kalamazoo’s Chenery Auditorium on October 24th at 7:30 p.m. I spoke with the founder of the band, Henrique Prince.

A longer interview with Henrique Prince of the Ebony Hillbillies

Jamming On The Subway

Price says when the band needed a place to rehearse, they started playing at New York City subway stations—and they still play there today. Price says people from all walks of life will get up and dance with each other. If they do it regularly, some passengers will even ask where they were on weeks when they don’t show up. Price says band members could be playing the subway one day and playing with a formal orchestra on another.

Songs You Know

You’ll probably recognize many of the tunes the Ebony Hillbillies play because they’re so old they’ve stood the test of time—like “Leather Britches,” “Boil the Cabbage Down,” “Five Miles From Town,” and “Soldier’s Joy.” There are also early American folk tunes and a few Irish reels.

Preserving History

Price says it’s important to remember the rich tradition of string bands as well as African Americans’ role in early American music.

“You know that movie came out 12 Years A Slave and a lot of people were like surprised: ‘They got a black guy in there playing the violin,’" Price says. "And it’s like, ‘Yeah, that was real common at one time.’”

But what’s even more important, Price says, is to let kids today know that you can make real music with just one instrument, like old time fiddlers did.

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